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Syrian Dissidents Form National Council

Syrian dissidents have formed a national council to lead the opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/23/2011, 10:39 PM

 Louay Safi
Louay Safi
SDE Press Photo

Syrian dissidents have formed a national council to lead the opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime, opposition members meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, said Tuesday.

The creation of the council came as Libya's National Transitional Council is primed to take the reins of power from the Moammar Gadhafi regime. Yemen's opposition leaders have also formed a National Council to push for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
 
"I want the Syrian regime to take note of what happened in Libya," said Syrian National Council member Louay Safi.
 
"Those dictators who think that they are above people and above history, (think) they can maintain repression without being called to account. That time is over now. All nations have the right to live under the rule of law and to experience democracy and free speech and freedom," Safi said.
 
The nascent council's goal is to have 120 members -- 60 exiles and 60 activists from inside Syria -- and they aim to announce the names on the council in 15 days.
 
The group has denounced the al-Assad regime. They are inviting representatives of all ethnic and sectarian communities to join them.
 
The movement wants to establish a democratic system but stressed the need to be independent of foreign interference.
 
Also on Tuesday, US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, made a surprise trip to the town of Jasem in southern Daraa province, residents said, his second visit since July to an area rocked by pro-democracy demonstrations.
 
"He came by car this morning, although Jasem is swarming with secret police. He got out and spent a good of time walking round. He was careful not to be seen talking with people, apparently not cause them harm," one resident told Reuters.
 
Over 2,200 protesters have been killed by gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since pro-reform demonstrations erupted in March. Initially protesters did not call for Assad's ouster, but as his crackdown escalated in intensity so did the strident tenor of opposition to his regime.